About Fathers

Perspectives on fathers and their children.

Do Fathers Model Sex-Role Behaviors for Sons?

Myths about the value of fathers

For several decades, ending in the 1970s, one prevailing fatherhood myth was that the crucial job of fathers was to model sex-role behavior for their sons. The trouble was, comparisons of masculinity in fathers and their sons showed little correlation. If fathers didn't make boys into men, researchers concluded, what role did they really serve?

This is one of the many, many examples of father stereotyping that I've found in the research for my book Do Fathers Matter? The new science of fatherhood. When this issue was looked at systematically, researchers found it wasn't the father's masculinity that was important in the development of his sons. Rather, it was the relationship between a father and his son. Paternal masculinity wasn't important, but a father's warmth and closeness to his sons was.

I am starting to post short items here that come out of my research, some of which will become part of the book, and some will not. I think you'll find these observations helpful as you think about yourself or the fathers in your life. I look forward to your comments.

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Journalist Paul Raeburn is the author of Do Fathers Matter? to be published by Scientific America/FSG in June, 2014. He is also the author of the Fathers and Families blog.

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